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9th Circuit Won’t Rehear English-Learner Ruling

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - The 9th Circuit let stand a February ruling that Arizona may not cut off its additional funding for English-language learner programs after two years.

Republican legislative leaders and state school superintendent Tom Horne sought to reduce the amount taxpayers would have to pay under court orders requiring the state to step up its funding of the ELL programs. Parents first complained about the state's alleged inadequate funding in a 1992 class action.

The two-year limit pushed by legislators and Horne would have reduced the state's obligation from $40.6 million in new funding to less than $20 million. Horne says he plans to appeal the issue to the U.S. Supreme Court.

On the other side, attorneys for the plaintiffs claim the state needs to pay more than $40.6 million in order to comply with the Equal Educational Opportunity Act.

After more than a decade of court orders and minimal response, Gov. Janet Napolitano allowed HB 2064 - the Legislature's attempt to create a compliant funding system - to become law in 2006 without her signature.

The three-judge panel ruled that although HB 2064 has improved conditions, Arizona's ELL students still fail to meet the requirements of state academic standards and the No Child Left Behind Act. Additionally, the two-year funding cutoff renders the law inadequate and includes grant programs that violate federal education-funding law, the judges concluded.

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